Major UK data firms under scrutiny as watchdog bites

ICO newSome of the UK’s leading data companies, including CACI, Experian, Equifax, TransUnion (formerly Callcredit) and Data8, are among those businesses being investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office as part of its ongoing probe into the use of personal data for political advertising, which has already put Emma’s Diary in the dock.
The regulator said it has found that some political parties had purchased datasets of personal data from data brokers and used this for election and campaign purposes.
It also has evidence that some data brokers had failed to obtain lawful consent (for example by not explaining who the data would be sold to or how it would be used when it was gathered) for political parties to use those lists in this way.
In a statement the ICO said: “We have made enquiries with some of the key data brokers operating in the UK supplying data to political parties, including Experian, Emma’s Diary, CACI and Data8; raising concerns in relation to fair processing information provided to individuals.
“In particular [we are looking at] whether the data had been obtained and shared in a way that was compliant with the fairness and transparency requirements under the first data protection principle of the Data Protection Action 1998. We have outstanding enquiries with a number of data brokers.”
Yesterday, the regulator revealed that Emma’s Diary, the Lifecycle Marketing-owned firm which targets new and expectant mothers, has been served with a formal notice of intent of regulatory action and a proposed fine of £140,000. It has been claimed that the company supplies data to the Labour Party, although Lifecycle Marketing denies this is the case.
The ICO has justified the highly unusual step of publishing the notice before Lifecycle Marketing has had a chance to respond to the allegations as by saying that, in this case, it considered “the public interest and profile, the public nature of much of it and the commitment to update the Department of Digital, Media, Culture & Sport committee” validated the decision.
The regulator also said that it has been looking at the services and operations of the credit reference agencies – which include Callcredit, Equifax and Experian again – in respect of the services they promote to political parties and campaigns.
“Our existing investigation of the privacy issues raised by their work has been expanded to include their activities in political processes. Our teams will audit the agencies and report their findings by the end of this year,” the ICO said.

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